tv Inside Story Al Jazeera August 20, 2014 11:30am-12:01pm EDT
hello, i'm ray suarez, what is a cop for - in training, equipment and orientation, is a police officers something fundamentally different to a soldier? the question is provoked by the event of the last week and a half in ferguson, missouri, where unrest after the killing by a police officer of an unarmed young man has seen rising and falling waves of violence and confrontation on the streets of the small suburban city. the ferguson police gave way to the missouri state police, now the missouri national guard is filtering in. if you accept the proposition that a police officer is not a soldier, what happens when you hire former soldiers to be police officers. and what happens when you give
the police the tools normally used by soldiers. the miltarisation of police work is "inside story". >> reporter: a street of strip malls by day, a battlefield at fight. [ explosion ] ferguson, missouri saw another night of violence. police say protesters threw molotov cocktails and shotguns, leaving them no choice but to respond. also monday missouri's governor deployed the national guard, the first task defending a police command center. local and state police armed the front lines with armoured vehicles, purchased from the military with grants. >> it was reserved for emergency situation, hostage takings and shootings is spread over the country because of a number of
federal policies and is the default use of force in far too many situations. >> reporter: ferguson's arsenal is not usual. the police department of fort meyers florida owns a mine resistant vehicle or m rap. today. >> it could sustain happened gun, rifle. all the rocket-propel's grenades. also available to local and state police. hum virus, cam flij gears, helicopters fluring the lines between cop and shoulder. >> the police trained to think of the communities sebed as battle grounds, thinking of the people that they are to protect and serve. >> reporter: much of the equipment is the purchased through 1033, selling the pentagon's left-own weapons of
war often at heavily discounted rates. the programme got its start in the 1980s, as a way to help local officials, struggling to help gang violence and fight the war on drugs. >> this is the type of equipment we need at times and in situations to make sure we go home to our families. >> the programme expanded. thousands of cities and towns rushing to ensure they were ready for a terror attack. >> with new capabilities came requirements. the feds can take back gear, explaining why nationwide swot fames were used -- swot teams from used 3,000 times a year, and deployed 5,000 times a year today, explaining the growth of the 1033 programme from around $1 million a year in the early '90s, to an estimated 752 million.
it is up to law enforcement agencies to speak to how and system. >> the violence in ferguson not only brought new attention to the increasing militarization of american police, it produced a rare moment of bipartisan agreement in washington. republican senator rand paul of kentucky wrote of local police saying: democratic representation hank johnson of georgia agreed writing: few argue police should face unrest and looting. as scenes like these played out across television. how much is too
much. in recent years maybe you heard militarization of police force was discussed. and the 2001 terror. >> attack accelerated the funding of the equipment to the police departments. did the phenomenon begin earlier with the high violent crime rates, the rise of crack in big cities, and funny flowing from washington to fight the war on drugs. police and soldiers and the difference between the two - this time on "inside story". joining us for that conversation from morgan town west virginia, from new york city, matthew, director of homeland security at mercy college, and from baltimore maryland, hubert williams, a former police director in newark new jersey. >> welcome to the programme. >> let me start with you. you have been at this for a long
time. when did we see things change. how did they change. >> well, the police started to bring in heavy equipment. i guess, from what i have seen, 10-15 years ago. and they purchased it from the military. the big issue here for me is not just the equipment that they had, but how that equipment is used, what kind of policies are established to determine how that equipment is used, and what levels of accountability exists to ensure adherence to policy. police may need some of the equipment in dealing with terrorist situations and other unusual event. certainly dealing with still disorders and riots. problematic. >> matthew, when you introduced something new in the way of equipment to a police force, to any force, does there have to be intentionality about what we are
going to do with it, when we are going to use it, when we are not, and how to train the people things? >> yes, absolutely. i agree with the gentleman who spoke. policy is key here, that is not spoken about enough. when this equipment arrives, whether it be a 10-man police department in tennessee, or a metropolitan place department in a big city, this equipment is - this is lethal equipment. this is military-grade combat equipment, and the policies and procedures and the training have to be - have to be on tart with this. we can't put it into the hands of people and expect them to know how to use it properly. >> in your observation as the country's police forces up-armoured in this way, has there been sufficient training and change to the way we approach the use of these tools?
>> in my experience, yes. the police departments that i have worked for created strict policy, and with regular training. i would tell you that the equipment - that it may be intimidating to the germ population to see police officers in a vest, in a helmet with a rifle, but benjamin franklin once said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. we don't know what that show of force prevent. as the gentleman referred to earlier, there are unusual event that occur, and the police need to be prepared to respond to those. we have learnt over and over that unless the police are equipped properly, they are not going to respond properly. the case would be 1997 north hollywood bank of north america robbery, where the l.a.p.d. - it took them 44 minutes to neutralize the bank robbers with
automatic weapons. it's a prime example of what it means to be equipped. >> whether it's an ounce of prevention or a tonne of prevention is the argument, and whether the situation in the country really is reflected in what we are seeing in police departments. hasn't violent crime and threat of this kind been dropping in the '90s, and the first decade of this century? >> yes. but i don't think that is dropped because police officers are equipped with m4s and m16s. i believe that hubert was on point. too much focus on the media - a lot of chatter is revolving around the equipment that is issued to the inteffeduals, i agree -- individuals, and i agree with the other expert that they receive training to use the equipment. the real question and fear as far as it affects the american way of lie is is that right.
should we live in that type of country where police are equipped, trained and acting like soldiers. just the phrase show of force - that is a military term. the war on drugs, the war on terrorism. we are slowly changing the men in blue from peace officers into, you know, a very - combat operations. that is something we should talk about. that is scary. we don't want cops to be soldiers. because let's remember, a soldier's mission is to engage the enemy in close combat and destroy them. a police officers mission is to protect and serve. i think that is the real question that should be on the forefront of every american's mind, what is happening to the men in blue in this country. i was a police officer, i wore a blue uniform and carried a pistol. five years later the same department issued m16s carried around inside of every officer adds car.
i think that he was right that the 1997 shooting in l.a., did show that a certain amount of penetration power was needed and a lot of departments got one m16 to be an duty. now it's every police officer has an m-16 available to them. looking at the police officers on the streets in missouri, it is scary, because they look like soldiers, and are trained like soldiers i don't think it's far-fetched to believe they'll act like soldiers. >> hubert williams, let me turn that to you. earlier in the programme we mentioned the pentagon in transferring the tools to the local police departments require that they use them or give them back. does that create the temptation that you are going to use things like swat tools more often than they are called for? >> it could. the issue for me is how often is the pentagon saying that they
have to use them. if they have to use them when they are not necessary, when it's not required to have the level of force, power. then they should not accept them. the fact that we have to go back over 20 years to look at an incident that occurred where it might have been justified for the police to have powerful weapons, talks about how frequently they are used. secondly, let me say this right. if you go as far back as the presidential commission on law enforcement. we have had in this nation one presidential commission on law enforcement that did an exhaustive study on the police. and the use of force by the police. one of the things that they said was that there's two different sometimes of policing. this is a big issue, rarely discussed, but it comes up in this issue. they said there's two sometimes of policing.
the other presenter said to protect and serve. that's the style that presidential commission said was used in suburbs and suburban communities. in the inner city it is to enforce the law. and to enforce it with all the power that the police has. and what it's doing is putting a strain, significant strain on relationships between the police and public, undermining the capability of police to provide law enforcement services because they cannot be effective without public support. this is a bad move to have the police perceived of as military and the police to stop acting like military. it's a bad move. because the relationship between the police and the public is the essence of what the enforcement of the law consistent with the constitution, and our democratic values is all about. >> hubert williams, i'll stop
you there and we'll go to a break. when we come back i want a response from matthew to that point. this is not a single variable question. the police are not standing out on the streets by themselves. others are out there. does it change the way they respond to the situation, and how they perceive the nature of the encounter. stay with us, it's "inside story". >> these young people deserve justice >> anatomy of a protest... >> ...the police look like they're getting ready to come down the street >> with militarized police departments >> forces their message... >> they're actually firing canisters of gas... >> a fractured community demands answers >> what do we want? >> justice! >> when do we want it? >> now! >> faul lines, al jazeera america's hard hitting... >> there blocking the door... >> ground breaking... >> truth seeking... >> we have to get out of here... award winning investigative documentary series... special episode ferguson: city under siege only on al jazeera america
>> people really do still believe in their teachers >> defending tenure... taking on standardized tests and fixing education in america >> put authority and power in the hands of the people in that school >> every saturday join us for exclusive, revealing, and surprising talks with the most interesting people of our time. >> talk to al jazeera only on al jazeera america you're watching "inside story" on al jazeera america, i'm ray suarez. maybe you saw the unrest in ferguson, missouri, and wondered why a small city was equipped with military weapons, body armour and weapons. that's the focus of this programme. herbert williams spoke about, before the break, different
approaches to policing, one orientation to be serve and protect. the other to control and enforce the law. is that a fair observation? >> i'll have to respectfully disagree to the way he framed it. this is what i mean. i policed in both the metropolitan city and a suburb. so i have had the experience of both, and what we strive for in law enforcement across the bored and nation is what we termed as community oriented policing, dating back to the founding of modern policing, who said we need to involve the community. i'm going to quote another leader of our country, teddy roosevelt, who said speak softly, but carry a big stick. what that means is we strive to speak softly, get the community on our side and speak softly. we need to be prepared to bring out that stick. we can put our hands obvious our
eyes like a 3-year-old and say mummy, come find me, because we want to pretend the threat is not there is irresponsible. police officers swear on oath to protect and serve the community. they need to be equipped with 21 century equipment to defend the sheep from the wolves. >> how do you respond to that? >> i mean, it's so easy, monday morning quarterback any decision by local law enforcement to upgrade the equipment. i never worked in a city where there was incredible violence. i don't know what it feels like to feel like you are going to war. i was is soldier in fallujah and i see the tactics used and the mentality that we see in local police forces, the shift, you know. break it down to very such terms. the police mission is to protect and serve. they treat suspects as suspects.
bad guys get civil liberties. a soldier's mission is simply and stark in comparison. they are to identify individuals and put them into two categories - enemy, non-enemy. the enemy they try to kill, and the non-enemy they try hard not to kill. again, i go back to the central conflict of it's the mentality i have a problem with. i slautly want police officers -- absolutely want police officers in the country to be safe and have equipment that makes them safe. they are out there risking their lives for us. i have the thin blue line at the back of my car. this shift is gradual. just to go back to something we talked about early, swot, special weapons -- swat, special weapons and tactics, the key is special. it is routine in the country. i do not disagree with the panellists that we have to give them modern equipment. i believe that it is too extreme
in too many circumstances. the best example i can give is the assault rifle, the m16. what is the mission of the m16, to engage the enemy up to 300m and kill them. how often do people need to engage people, member, suspects, at 300m to engage? that is very, very scary. that is too close to the world of soldiering. and i think we should be mindful of that shift. >> matthew, you have been a police officer and a soldier. professor? >> yes, i'm going to slightly disagree. i believe he's on point with what he's saying. however, the term rapid deployment diverse to a patrolman's ability to rapid by be deployed and respond. let's take columbine. although an m16 or ar 16 carried in the police cars are combat
weapons, and accurate up to 300 yards, that's true, they are the effective means to engage a serious and imminent threat, like an active shooting in a mall, movie theatre and school. i go back to my point - speak softy, carry a big stick, have triping, accountable -- training, accountability, but equip our men and women who swear to protect the people they serve. the public is the ones put at risk. if you take the weapons away from the men and women. we'll take a short break. when they come back we'll talk about the effect the different pieces of equipment, different to what police officers are carrying in american cities, how it changes the effect they have on other people on the street. stay with us. it's "inside story".
america mobile app, available for your apple and android mobile device. download it now >> welcome back to "inside story" on al jazeera america. i'm ray suarez. what police are trained to do--what soldiers are trained to do, and how the jobs are similar, and where they delive differ on this episode. with us, professor of law from the university of west virginia. director of homeland security at mercy college, and former police
directer in newark, new jersey. does it feel different when you're looking down the street at the people that you want to leave that street, does it feel different when you pack down that street dressed in body armor with a military-style he will met on your ahead head, and a long begun as your side arm. conversely, when you're standing on the street and you know the police want you to leave, is the reaction different when they know you're fully loaded to bear and they ask you to move. >> perspectives may differ predicated on the position. for example, if you've never run a police department, if of this' never had to establish policies for an law enforcement organization your perspective may be different.
if one of the things that they promote they argue most vehemently about is the need for the police and public to work together. the gentleman that quoted sir robert peal back in 1929 when he came out and made some of these statements, one of the first things he taught at the academy was that the police and people must be one. and if you're going to carry these heavy weapons in policing protests, you're going to rupture that community in ways that it will be long time before it gets repaired. we got to find a way for the people and the police to work together as partners to improve public safety, which is a fundamental role and duty of the police. when you put the police in a military role what you do is separate them from the public. that's the biggest problem that i think that heavy duty weapons has.
the big question is how often is it needed? how often is it used? one guest gave an example of 20 years ago. you can find a few rare cases day after day the police walk the beat. they interact with citizens. people who live there, if they have information about crime, if they don't provide it, if they don't trust the police, it's a problem. one final thing, ray, when janet reno was the attorney general of the united states, she called a summit of police chiefs, i was there. what are the five more important thing for police. the number one thing they said was public trust. public trust. police leaders under the complexity of the community, and they have to put policies and practices together in a way to generate public trust and public support. >> well, i'm going to try to get a quick answer to my orange question, are you going to
behave differently if you think the people on the other end of the street can't hurt you? >> sure, the first step in the first continuum in policing is physical presence, but i don't want to throw this back on the other panelists face, but soft speaking, car carrying a big stick, teddy roosevelt was a genius but the problem is we carry that big stick too often. i would like to look at hold your hands behind the back so the people don't have to see on a daily basis this soldier on the side of the street. i'm not an experiment in camouflage, but even when you look at the uniforms being worn, they are green uniforms. that's not even good camouflage in urban environment. they want to look like that. they want to look scary and menacing, and i think that's a #
inside story. and in washington i'm ray suarez. feeling divisions in iraq, kurdish mp's return to parliament as the fight against the islamic state continues. the group's beheading of a u.s. journalist has been condemned in washington and europe. ♪ i'm in doha, also coming up in the next half hour. hundreds attend the funerals in gaza for the victims of israeli air strikes after the collapse of the ceasefire. and protesters demanding the resignation of pakistan's prime minister